AP NEWS

Boston College football looks at areas for improvement at spring practice

March 15, 2017

Boston College opens spring practice today under the bubble at Alumni Stadium in the afterglow of the Eagles’ first bowl victory since 2007.

The Eagles return 16-of-22 starters and half of the key special teams personnel from the team’s 36-30 victory against Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit.

BC coach Steve Addazio said Monday the good feelings from that postseason triumph carried into the offseason conditioning program.

“The emotional momentum coming off the end of the season for our players was just really fantastic,” he said. “You could feel it all winter long. We had as good a winter as we’ve ever had. The players’ vibe, their energy, their attention to detail, I think it was very uplifting for them.”

BC finished 7-6 but was 2-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Eagles need to forge a solid foundation in the spring if they expect to be competitive in a league that produced national champion Clemson and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville.

Here are BC’s three areas of concern:

Passing attack

The Eagles have not had a prolific passer since Chase Rettig threw for 3,065 yards in 2012. BC finished 14th in the ACC with 149.1 passing yards per game. Graduate transfer Patrick Towles completed 138-of-273 passes for 1,730 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

BC opens spring ball with two inexperienced, dual-threat quarterbacks competing for the starting job in redshirt sophomore Darius Wade and redshirt freshman Anthony Brown.

Addazio said both have rocket arms, but that doesn’t assure getting the ball into receivers’ hands while under pressure. Whoever emerges as the starter will have the benefit of a near intact offensive line and a sound power run game.

Stopping the run

Boston College has boasted a top-10 rushing defense in all of Addazio’s four years. It finished last season seventh in rushing defense by allowing 1,411 yards on 422 attempts for a 3.3 average. The Eagles allowed 108.6 rushing yards per game.

The Eagles’ domination of opposing ground games will be compromised by the losses of four key players in tackle Truman Gutapfel, defensive end Kevin Kavalec, outside linebacker Matt Milano and strong safety Jon Johnson.

Middle linebacker Connor Strachan, who played most of the season with a sore shoulder, will be the Eagles’ primary run stopper. He led the team with 80 tackles in 12 games with 11 for losses. Noa Merritt returns at nose tackle while Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray will be in the reconfigured defensive front.

The return game

Boston College’s offense was the beneficiary of solid performances by the team’s kickoff and punt return teams. The Eagles finished 12th in the nation in punt returns with 321 yards on 26 returns for a 12.4-yard average. The kick return unit finished 33rd with 683 yards on 30 returns for a 22.8 average.

Addazio must find replacements for departed tailbacks Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis, who did the bulk of the returns. Rouse returned 24 punts for 313 yards and a 13.0 average. Willis returned 20 kickoffs for 469 yards, a 23.5 average and one touchdown.

Wide receivers Michael Walker and Jeff Smith are the likely replacements. Walker had six kickoff returns for 101 yards and a 16.8 average. Smith has the speed and shifty moves to be a successful punt returner.